Scrutiny for Charlotte Silver Line Light Rail Plan

Cost and economic development considerations supersede mobility considerations in the planning for Charlotte's planned light rail line.

March 9, 2019, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Lynx Blue Line

meunierd / Shutterstock

The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) "wants to build a rail line – known as the Silver Line — from Matthews to uptown, and then continuing to the airport and possibly Belmont," reports Steve Harrison.

The problem is how to route the east-west light-rail line through the center city.

"If the transit system is only focused on moving people, the tunnel is the best option," according to Harrison, who is paraphrasing the explanation of CATS Chief Executive John Lewis. However, that's not the only consideration CATS considered when planning the light rail line.

"Lewis said CATS couldn’t look only at mobility. He said CATS is a part of the city of Charlotte and the city has other goals, like economic development. The area around I-277 is mostly empty today," explains Harrison. "So CATS picked the northern route through uptown. The Silver Line would follow I-277, and then cross over the highway and run along 11th street. It would then turn to the south and run alongside the existing railroad tracks two blocks northwest of Graham Street."

Harrison is able to find multiple sources in positions of power who are disappointed with the decision, as Charlotte prepares to become the latest (but not the only) case study of light rail transit planning that doesn't optimize ridership, and routes a long a freeway.

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